Depending on the presentation and findings, your doctor may need to perform a thorough head and neck examination that will include:
A breast examination and abdominal examination may be also required.
Further tests may be ordered that may include:
1. Ultrasound Scan
In this scan, a probe that produces sound waves is used to create an image of your neck and its lymph nodes on a screen. This test is non-invasive, painless and does not involve any ionising radiation.
2. Computer Tomographic (CT) scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Your doctor may order a CT or MRI scan for you. These scans will usually entail you lying down on a motorised bed that will pass through a scanner to obtain an image. The CT scan uses ionising radiation to produce an image whereas an MRI scan entails the use of a strong magnetic field and radio frequency waves.
3. Fine-needle Aspiration Biopsy
Sometimes your doctor may decide if it is necessary to obtain a biopsy of an enlarged lymph node. In this test, the doctor passes a small needle through the lymph node and aspirates some cells from it for testing. The cells from the lymph nodes are smeared onto a glass side for staining and analysis by a cytologist.
At times, more tissue than obtainable from a fine-needle aspiration will be required. In these cases your doctor will schedule you to go to the operating theatre to remove a lymph node for testing. This can usually be done as a day surgery procedure and can be done under local or general anaesthesia.
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